Iowans Oppose DNR Director Having Sole Authority Over Livestock

Nearly two-thirds say state regulations, not Jeff Vonk, should be determining factor over where and how livestock is raised. Rod Swoboda

Published on: Mar 21, 2006

Nearly 65% of Iowans disapprove of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) director having sole authority over where and how livestock is raised. That's according to a recent study commissioned by the Coalition to Support Iowa's Farmers (CSIF).

The poll shows 67% of farmers and 63% of non-ag Iowans surveyed disapprove of Iowa DNR Director Jeff Vonk having the power to deny a farmer the opportunity to construct a new livestock barn. Those polled say existing state laws, not one unelected official, should be the deciding factor.

The survey of 400 Iowans was conducted in February by The Tarrance Group. The survey results are timely, because they come at a time when the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission is considering a rule that would grant Vonk ultimate power over permit approval of new livestock farms. The study included 100 farmers and 300 non-ag residents from throughout Iowa.

EPC to make decision on DNR director

Disapproval of the DNR director authority rule was high in all geographical regions statewide. Of those opposed, 31% explained their position was based on a belief that one person would have "too much power." Another 25% expressed a belief that following state regulations should be the deciding factor. An additional 11% expressed a belief that giving the DNR director so much authority would cause "too much government interference."

"It's a matter of fairness," says Marlin Marckmann, a farmer from Greenfield. "Everyday, we are mindful of all rules and regulations that have been passed by the Iowa legislature. Yet one person wants to be able to say that's not good enough. That doesn't seem right."

Marckmann, who raises cattle and hogs and grows hay, corn and soybeans on his Adair County farm, says giving ultimate authority to just one person makes business planning more risky.

Why rely on one person's opinion?

"A farmer can undertake the costs of planning and preparing to add some more livestock to the farm and follow all the regulations and still be denied the chance based on just one person's opinion," he says. "There are plenty of challenges in farming today without having one person's subjectivity be the deciding factor as to whether or not you can build."

The survey found that women and seniors were most opposed to Vonk being able to usurp legislative authority with regards to the construction of new livestock farms. While disapproval stands at 53% among men, fully 72% of women disapprove, a negative perception that climbs to 76% among women over age 55. Overall, disapproval increased with age and among seniors – only 32% approve while 65% disapprove.